The face of terrorism

Brian Chang , News Editor

Journalists often claim that their duty is to report the truth and nothing less; however, when truth falls in the way of national security, the media has to realize that some information should be classified.

Following two terrorist attacks less than a month apart, French media outlets such as Le Monde, BFM-TV and La Croix have stopped releasing the names or pictures of terrorists in an attempt “to avoid possible posthumous glorification effects,” according to an editorial published by Le Monde. Others, such as France Télévisions and Libérations, have refused to set a standardized policy either way and will continue to publish names and photos if they feel the occasion warrants it. Through the publication of the names of terrorists, newspapers grant these individuals undeserved fame and glory—which may, in turn, cause successive attacks.

“[Terrorists] will say to their supporters, ‘Look how this guy who sacrificed himself to the cause has become a figure of hate, look how much they’re frightened of him’,” according to Charlie Beckett, founder of Polis, a forum for journalists worldwide. “By publishing this story in a way that glorifies the terrorist, it helps [terrorists] recruit—and it might just trigger some other unbalanced lunatic to do something stupid.”

Terror groups use media to their advantage, spreading fear through online videos. When Western media reports on and shares such videos, the organization’s influence is spread further, and through manipulative use of social media, information can be shared much more quickly. Additionally, such groups also take advantage of the fear caused by terror acts by claiming responsibility and threatening future attacks. News sites, which continue to publish photos of terrorists, aid these organizations in their campaign to spread fear to their enemies.

Any action that may prevent future terrorist attacks must be taken. The safety of a country’s citizens comes before the public’s right to know the portrait of a dead perpetrator of hate crimes. Media outlets play their own part in the propagation of fear associated with terrorism.

While condemning terrorist propaganda, popular news sources such as CNN and Fox  ironically aid jihadists in the dissemination of radical beliefs through the media.

Like all other members of society, journalists have an obligation to promote and protect the security of their country, and it is time that they start doing so.

Though dead men don’t kill, their photographs may.